An Orthodontist is a specialized type of Dentist. Also known as: Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Specialist, Orthodontics Specialist, Board Certified Orthodontist.
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They have the important job of helping people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion. Orthodontists have the power to help people feel less anxious about their teeth. They get to help improve smiles and give their patients self-confidence through their work.
Patients' general dentists refer them to orthodontists when their teeth are not straight and it is affecting them or could affect them in a negative way in the future. An improper bite can mean that a patient's teeth are growing in crooked or crowded and creating discomfort. Even if there is no pain or discomfort, a patient may simply want to improve their appearance with a straighter set of teeth.
Orthodontists typically deal with hardware such as retainers and headgear with the goal of aligning teeth to improve the appearance or the ability of the person to chew and swallow food without difficulty or pain. First, it is necessary that patients come in for a consultation – an assessment of their jaw and teeth malocclusion. They are usually referred to an orthodontist from their general dentist, who spots the malocclusion first. In this initial appointment, he or she will examine the teeth and jaws, and perhaps take x-rays or molds of the teeth. These specialty dentists can usually spot the major and/or minor issues right away after this first visit. It is then their job to explain to the patient exactly what the issues are with teeth alignment and then recommend some sort of strategy for treatment.
Orthodontists take a look at patients' teeth both directly and via x-rays and molds to determine exactly how the teeth are misaligned, and then come up with the most effective treatment solution. It is an orthodontist's job to fix the major imperfections of a malocclusion, and some are more serious than others. Therefore, an orthodontist's job can range from simply applying, adjusting, and removing braces to taking steps to control facial growth.
Treatment for patients with malocclusions usually comes in the form of applying braces. While people of all ages may need and wear braces, children in their teens make up the bulk of people who wear orthodontic braces for an extended period of time. It is an ideal age for wearing braces because the teeth and face are in a time of constant and significant growth, and it is better to catch and correct any teeth alignment issues early on instead of later. This way, teens' braces will help guide teeth, keeping them straight and preventing future malocclusion issues. Once an orthodontist applies braces to a patient’s teeth, the patient must come in for regular check-ups so the dentist can make any necessary adjustments as time passes. Ultimately, when the desired result has been achieved, the braces are removed.
Beyond braces, orthodontists deal with other conditions such as jaw pain, speech impediments, sleep apnea, gum disease, and difficulty chewing.
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Orthodontists work in well-lit offices or clinics. The average orthodontist works approximately 30-40 hours per week. Working conditions are generally pleasant with no expectation of being on call or working nights as some healthcare professionals do.